The ground breaking at the site of the signal box drew a big crowd and inset John Hayes officially starts the workPhotos: Lee Hellwing
Network Rail demolished the historic signal box in Deeping St James in 2014 to make way for new electric crossing gates.
But angry residents and railway enthusiasts set about rebuilding the signal box, which when finished will be used as a heritage centre.
And even though work to rebuild the box won’t get properly underway until September, South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes started the groundwork on Saturday morning in a ceremony watched by dozens of interested parties.
Parish councillor Stuart Hall, who is part of the St James Deeping Signal Box Group, said it was an “important occasion” in the journey to getting the box rebuilt.
“It was very exciting to see the groundwork get underway - this is the first step in the rebuild and we are officially on our way,” Stuart said.
He paid tribute to Mr Hayes, who he said had been “instrumental” in securing a government grant to enable the purchase of the land not far from the former stationmaster’s House in Station Road.
“It has taken us three years to get to this point but to see the work finally starting was great and that is with huge thanks to John Hayes. It was only appropriate to have him there,” Stuart added.
He also thanked Princebuild, which is project managing the rebuild, who he said had been “instrumental” in getting the project this far.
Manor Roofing has kindly offered to reslate the roof and much of the work will be carried out by New College Stamford construction students - hence why the main bulk of the work won’t start until the next term in September to ensure continuity within the project.
Currently the various parts of the box are stored in containers on a farmer’s field near the eventual site of reconstruction.
The work is expected to take about a year to complete and when finished, the new heritage centre will link with other local attractions such as the Exotic Pets Refuge and the Deeping Lakes Wildlife Trust. It is also hoped to allow school visitors and a retired signalman has even offered to volunteer his time sharing his tales.
Find out more about the project by visiting http://stjamesdeepingsignalbox.org.uk